Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Inquest into Erik Scott's Death - Day 6

The Las Vegas Sun has a witness-by-witness account of the sixth day of the inquest into the death of Erik Scott that is available here.

My own reactions to the sixth (and final) day's proceedings are below.

One of the more interesting aspects of Clark County's coroner's inquest procedure is the inclusion of questions from so-called "interested parties." These people are identified by someone, perhaps the judge, as having a pertinent interest in the inquest (such as being a family member of the victim), and they are given the opportunity to submit questions to witnesses during the inquest. Their questions are submitted in written form during the initial questioning of witnesses by the district attorneys, and the judge decides whether any of these questions are germane enough to be asked of the witness before they leave the stand.

As a kind of control of the judge's discretion (and, I think, to help maintain a complete record of the proceedings), those questions that the judge has deemed inappropriate are then saved and read into the court record at a later time, along with the judge's reasons for not allowing those questions to be asked. This is done outside the presence of the jury.

By the time that witness testimony had ended today, there had been over 1,500 such questions (they are numbered for the record), and it seems to me that the most common reason that the judge has given for disallowing a particular question is that the question has already been asked and answered. Other common reasons are that the question is not pertinent or that the question asks for undue speculation that is outside the knowledge of the witness.

One of the interesting possibilities suggested by numerous questions from "interested parties" is why the police felt the need to confront Erik Scott at the exit of Costco Wholesale instead of letting him move farther out into the parking lot where he could be isolated. Given the number of people still in the store and still crowded around the entrance & exit doors, this seems to be a reasonable question.

But the significance of this speculation is mitigated by the knowledge that, based on the information that they had been given, the police were reacting to a scenario in which they believed that they had an armed suspect who was refusing to leave the store. They did not envision confronting Erik Scott at the exit of Costco Wholesale. The police thought that, after the evacuation, they would have to go in after him.

In today's testimony, Officer Stark said as much. He also reiterated a point that was made in earlier testimony: that people who hold CCW permits in the state of Nevada are taught how to comply with police, and that this education includes explicit instructions to NOT reach for your weapon when initially confronted by police officers. Erik Scott had a CCW permit. Yet he reached for his weapon when confronted by police.

Had Erik Scott just put his hands up and kept them there when he was confronted by Officer Mosher (who couldn't have looked more like a police officer if he tried), then Erik Scott would probably be alive today.

And the absence of testimony from Erik Scott's girlfriend remains a troubling issue. Why did she ignore a subpoena to appear at this inquest? Though others have expressed their suspicions about the lack of direct video surveillance of the shooting of Erik Scott, I myself find the non-appearance of Samantha Sterner even more suspicious. After all, she is an eyewitness to the shooting, and she has direct knowledge of Erik Scott's actions & state-of-mind in the hours preceding his death. I can't help thinking that she has deliberately dodged this coroner's inquest as part of a plot to hide potentially valuable information.

As for the rest of this last day's testimony, it just bolstered my conclusion that Erik Scott's death, though tragic, was largely his own fault.

Now that the jury has rendered their finding that the shooting of Erik Scott was justified, I have to say that this was an unsurprising result. Of course, critics of this process will point out that there was no cross-examination of the witnesses and that there was no advocate for the victim. But, as has been said over & over, this inquest was not a trial.

The trials -- certainly at least one civil suit -- are sure to come.

In the wake of the announcement of the jury's finding, Erik Scott's father and his attorney talked with the media. The Las Vegas Sun published an article summing up this talk, as well as the inquest itself, in an article available here.

As expected, Bill Scott was deeply critical of the coroner's inquest, and he announced that he plans to file lawsuits against both the police department and Costco Wholesale. While I can see a suit against Costco Wholesale going forward and perhaps leading to a substantial settlement, it's hard for me to envision a wrongful death suit against LVMPD being successful.

Of course, I'm no lawyer, and the coming lawsuits may unveil some new information that could radically overturn my agreement with this inquest's finding that the shooting of Erik Scott was justified. I just can't help feeling that any such information would be outweighed by what any such future legal proceeding could wring out of Erik Scott's absent girlfriend, Samantha Sterner.


1 comment:

  1. horribly one sided view on your part.... you left out the key part which was he reached for his weapon as a result of the officer yelling at him to drop it even though he had nothing in his hands... as for samantha sterner not testifying... perhaps she didnt want to be subjected to a one sided assault from the district attorney and also you seemed to have missed the part that she was not served her subpeona properly.